Help with PFD

Need your assistance in finding a new pfd for an XL male. Please let me know make and model if you have one or know of one with the following Features:
About $100 cost
Buckle on bottom to wear unzipped
Big pocket(s)
Lower cut v-neck, don’t want to rub chin when zipped
Thin back padding if full back, about half an inch at most


Kokatak Bahia Tour.

$120 on Amazon.

But, I have to ask, why leave it unzipped?

Onyx is a low priced PFD with decent features. Their XL fits up to a 56" chest and the Torsion model has the bottom buckle, vee neck and the half back. It is also mesh ventilated for hot weather comfort and is only $80. Here is a link:

That said, I would strongly advise against paddling with the PFD unzipped. The buckle is meant to keep the vest from riding up and is generally not strong enough to prevent having the PFD ripped off your body if you are capsized in strong current. We lost someone a couple of years ago, a husband and father who was a volunteer on riverside trail cleanups – he was in his kayak near shore, wearing his PFD unzipped and leaned out to retrieve a trail sign that had fallen into the water. We had just had heavy storms the day before and the river current was fast and strong. He capsized and the force of the water swept him away, stripping off his PFD as he struggled, and he was sucked underwater and pinned beneath a barge parked along the shore, where he drowned before rescuers could get to him.

The Onyx vests are inexpensive because they don’t use as durable materials and hefty hardware as more pricey vests like Kokatat, Stohlquist, Astral and NRS. They are Coast Guard approved and will be safe if worn correctly, they just will not last as long as more costly PFDs with a lot of usage. The waist buckle on that Torsion certainly does not look like it would hold fast on its own on a large struggling person, even less so than with pricier vests. Again – it is not safe to paddle with any vest unzipped and not snugged up to fit the wearer closely.

To walk around, it’s hot down south off the water. I agree it should be zipped while paddling, definitely!

Another option might be some of the Stohlquist recreational style PFD’s. This one has the thinner foam back, larger pockets, vee neck and has 3 buckles rather than the zipper. Their XL goes up to a 48" to 60" chest. Cost is $60 for the one linked below. There are other Stohlquists that might have features that you like as well. Wanting a low vee neck is going to reduce the area for large pockets so you may have to compromise.

Thanks for the suggestions

Thanks for clarifying that bit about being unzipped. The ventilated PFD’s (like that first one I suggested) do help with heat build up. I have an Astral V-8 which has vents in front and back and I barely know I have it on even on the hottest days. A number of other forum folks like that one too. You can often buy it on sale for under $100 (when they change the colors or the style a bit they discount the old style) but it does not have great pockets. And their XL only goes up to 51".

I just tried in about 10-12 PFD’s at a few stores, settled on the Stohlquist Ebb. Best fit for me (6’1”, 218 lb).
Kokotat Proteus would have been my 2nd choice.

Kokatat gets their PFD’s certified with clips only, not zipped. So if it would be more comfy to unzip it for a little air, it has no ero impact on effectiveness.